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Former Council Leader Side Swipes MP and Old Colleagues While Promoting Elected Mayor System

Published on: 19 Jul, 2016
Updated on: 19 Jul, 2016

Elected Mayor ReferendumFormer council leader, Stephen Mansbridge has criticised Guildford’s MP, Anne Milton and his erstwhile colleagues at Guildford Borough Council (GBC) in a press release from the “Yes Campaign” for an elected mayor of Guildford.

In the release, which was only given to The Guildford Dragon NEWS indirectly, Mr Mansbridge writes: “In our post Brexit world, Guildford needs real leadership to stem its decline and to re-position it as the most prominent place outside of London.

“We have an MP who has given no opinion on any major issue, from gay marriage through to Europe. We have a council Leader who’s deputy is the MP’s voice.

“This is not leadership in any form. Councillors rail against the prospect of a directly elected mayor because it threatens their closeted existence. We ask the electorate to burst this comfy bubble.”

Reacting to the criticism, council leader Paul Spooner replied tersely: “Complete nonsense. No further comment.” Ms Milton and deputy council leader Matt Furniss have declined to comment.

Outlining the perceived advantages of an elected mayor system. Mr Mansbridge said: “Candidates for a directly elected mayor have to form meaningful manifestos, which allows people to decide who to vote for. A strong agenda for the benefit of all is vastly more important than party politics and weak manifestos…”

But in a rare show of unity last week, during a full Guildford Borough Council (GBC) meeting, councillors from all parties represented: Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Guildford Greenbelt Group and Labour, voted unanimously to campaign against the adoption of an elected mayor system.

A poll (see right hand column) that has been running in The Guildford Dragon indicates that only 16% of those in Guildford want an Elected Mayor. 80% are against the idea and 4% don’t know.

Cllrs Mansbridge & Juneja in their councillor robes

Stephen Mansbridge & Monika Juneja when both still serving councillors

Mr Mansbridge is a friend and business partner of Monika Juneja, another former councillor, who started a petition for a referendum on whether Guildford should adopt an elected mayor for of council governance, just before she resigned as a councillor at last year’s local election in May.

Shortly afterwards she was convicted at the Old Bailey for forgery, deception and pretending to be a barrister.

Mr Mansbridge resigned as a councillor in October following revelations in The Dragon that he had approached the Students’ Union at the University of Surrey to support the petition and help recruit students as signature collectors, paid £1 per signature. Local entrepreneur, and long time advocate of the elected mayor system, Michel Harper, admitted that he had supported the petition financially.

Ms Juneja continued to organise the petition which finally, on its fifth attempt, succeeded in presenting just over the 5, 184 signatures (5% of the electorate) needed to force the council to hold a referendum. It is to be held on October 13th.

Setting out the case for adopting an elected mayor, Mr Mansbridge wrote in the press release: “…[an elected] mayor is the executive leader of the council and so drives a single agenda across both councillors and council officers, unlike the current system. As with London, there is a much higher expectation that more will be achieved and Guildford desperately needs great attention and action.

“Like the Remain campaign, councillors are making this out to be very expensive, when it is not. With a mayor, there is no requirement for a chief executive, no requirement for Executive Advisory Boards and the need for administrative staff is reduced. The current leader has a PA, so the idea that this is an additional cost is another “scaremongering” tactic.

“Separately the cost of a referendum is the cost of democracy and for allowing all people greater input into the priority of issues and local decision making.

“A directly elected mayor, particularly one who is independent, is elected by all and so is not drawn to a parochial mind-set. The key to Guildford’s success is to have a clear strategic view of development of the borough as a whole; a mayor would rise above petty issues and concentrate on what is in the best interests of the majority of people.”

Cllr Paul Spooner asked to comment on his former council boss, Stephen Mansbridge’s criticism of the current GBC leadership, stated tersely: “Complete nonsense. No further comment.”

James Walsh the Labour candidate in the Stoke by-election on May...

Cllr James Walsh

James Walsh (Lab, Stoke) said at the council debate on the elected mayor referendum, last week: “I am very interested to know more about the motivations of the main players [behind the petition] and the work that has gone into collecting thousands of signatures. I am more than a little perturbed by the involvement of a convicted forger… Her involvement will cast a long shadow on this referendum.

“I do believe that the hybrid system [of governance] that we have in place works well, and I speak as someone who has previously sat at cabinet in a unitary authority which adopted a similar model.

“The key to effective local government lies in finding equilibrium between a strong Executive and the rest of the council through a competent system of checks, balances and robust scrutiny. So I am struggling to understand what more having an elected mayor, and the power concentrated into one pair of hands, could bring to this borough.

“To date… 52 referenda calling for an elected mayor have been held in the UK, 16 of these have resulted in governance change and 36 were rejected. That’s a 70% failure rate and three have subsequently voted to remove the elected mayor system.”

Cllr Michael Illman

Cllr Michael Illman

Commenting on the quoted costs of the referendum, £145,000 and, if adopted, installing an elected mayor, £255,000 (first year costs), Cllr Michael Illman (Con, Shalford), lead councillor for finance, said: “There are countless projects and initiatives which I would rather we were spending our money on than this.”

Summing up the council debate, Cllr Matt Furniss (Con, Christchurch) said: “I think the most telling item about the interest in this petition is the fact that we do not have the petitioners here to speak on it themselves tonight, or hoardes of public…”


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Responses to Former Council Leader Side Swipes MP and Old Colleagues While Promoting Elected Mayor System

  1. David Smith Reply

    July 19, 2016 at 5:52 pm

    I have to say I am shocked at Anne Milton’s persistent fence sitting.

    We elect our MPs to be our representatives not our delegates. As Edmund Blake said:
    “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgement; and he betrays you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

    So MPs aren’t there to mirror their constituents’ opinions. We should choose and put our trust in them to act on the basis of their own beliefs and principles. This means we should expect them to have views and beliefs and to say what they are.

    I honestly think that for an MP to be unwilling to say what their view is, is intolerable. We should bear this in mind at the next election. Never mind the party politics. Not to have a view is unacceptable.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      July 20, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      I believe Anne Milton does have a view but chooses to keep that view to herself. Borough councillors are elected to deal borough matters, county councillors with county issues and MP’s at national/international level. It is difficult to see what ‘assistance’ ‘help’ or ‘guidance’ can be gained from her commenting on this matter.

      It is for the people to decide and not for an MP to dictate. Does Mr Smith really think if she says she agrees, or disagrees, with an elected mayor it should make any difference to how a person should vote in this matter? It would merely indicate if one agreed with her or not, irrelevant during the voting process.

  2. Valerie Thompson Reply

    July 19, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    I can’t believe that Mr Mansbridge and his convicted criminal friend, Monika Juneja, and his other friend, the nightclub owner, have not yet got the message that people in Guildford are not as gullible as they believe.

    Obviously, Mr Mansbridge, wants to be the mayor, and he is trying to use his friends to help with that aim. But we don’t want him. We resent the dubious methods he has used to get a referendum accepted and we resent the dreadful waste of money he is causing the council.

  3. John Perkins Reply

    July 19, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    Guildford residents might find it useful to study the case of the Mayor of Torbay.

    Perhaps dissatisfied by local politics the borough voted in favour of an elected mayor in 2005. (See BBC article ‘Troubled Torbay votes for mayor’).

    However, after ten years another referendum was held and this time the vote went against having an elected Mayor. (Reference ‘Torbay mayor and cabinet system scrapped in referendum‘) In the BBC article relating to the second referendum it states: “The referendum was held after post holders were accused of making wrong decisions and having too much power”.

    A point of minor interest is that, despite voting to finish with an elected mayor, the borough will continue to have one for another three years because the last election was held only one year ago and the elected mayor cannot be removed from office during his four-year term.

    Mr. Mansbridge is quoted as stating “councillors are making this out to be very expensive, when it is not”. Has he taken into account the costs incurred in holding the referendum and those incurred by the council in validating the signatures on his multiple petitions? The price of raising the petitions and paying for collection of at least some of the signatures on them was of course met by the backers, but should also be considered as part of the overall cost.

  4. B Burston Reply

    July 19, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    I moved to Torbay from Guildford last year. We have just voted to get rid of our elected mayor as he acted like a less than benign dictator.

    Do not be fooled by Mr Mansbridge and Ms Juneja. Reject the call for an elected mayor.

  5. Jim Allen Reply

    July 19, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    The former leader of the council had every chance to demonstrate how to lead while in charge and I was not impressed.

    I have a severe concern for the culture of secrecy within current Executive at Millmead. It is comparable to a Russian Zato but I doubt an elected mayor would change this style.

    The Guildford Borough Council secrecy culture reminds me of a well known Jeans manufacturer who wouldn’t allow visitors inside their UK factories. It turned out that this was not because they were so advanced, but because they were so primitive.

    What are the secrets Millmead is hiding? Will someone eventually spill the beans and display the truth or will they get washed away in the floods caused by their plans for building on flood plain?

    Whatever the secrets the Executive should remember – this is England and we don’t like secrets, they offend us.

  6. Dave Middleton Reply

    July 20, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Unless a candidate for elected mayor is exceptionally wealthy, he or she will no doubt have to seek sponsorship to fund their campaign and if elected, would surely then be beholden to their sponsors.

    Also, I have seen it reported that the “salary” of such an elected mayor might easily be set at some £65,000.00 pounds, as apparently is paid to some mayors in other towns or cities. If we do end up with such a mayor, why should we have to pay them so much? Just because some other town pays a particular figure, why should we? After all, any candidate for the post will of course be seeking election on the grounds of public service, not lining their own pockets.

    I suggest that if we do end up with an elected mayor, the salary should be no more than the government’s minimum wage, based on a 40hr week, and any expenses only be paid in response to proper invoices and receipts.

  7. David Smith Reply

    July 20, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Mr Allen should be aware that my comments are about Anne Milton as a whole and perhaps less related to the latest spectacle Ms Juneja and Mr Mansbridge are making of themselves.

  8. Jules Cranwell Reply

    July 20, 2016 at 4:34 pm

    Why was Mr Mansbridge so coy that he did not appear at the council chamber when the petition was discussed? Perhaps the former guards officer was not brave enough.

    Why can’t he reveal his personal ambition more clearly? If he wants to be an even more powerful local political leader, despite his previous denial, why not say it? And what role does he envisage for his disgraced friend, Monika Juneja?

    Yes, there’s an awful lot wrong with the current leadership, but the faults are in the individuals in power, not the system.

    The very last thing Guildford needs is a return to the Mansbridge/Juneja ‘trajectory’.

    And, by the way, did he not, just last year, feel confident enough in the current mob to assign them into senior positions in the Executive?

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